Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Process of unknown becoming known

What is this strange attraction to unknown languages? I can't figure out why I love to hear conversations in languages that I can't understand.

It all starts with the musicality of a language. As I hear the natives talk, I feel the ease, passion and love that comes out.

The inflections, intonations and expressions entice me into the new world, making me read pages and pages on Wikipedia - history of the language, it's phonetics, morphology, semantics and so on. I don't want to dwell much into this aspect of the language, I move on to cultural, social and historical progress of the people themselves.

This comes from the fact that I have majored in one the ancient languages of the world - Sanskrit. Innumerable books have been written on the rich heritage and socio impact that this sanskrit has had over Southeast Asia. From young age I have been taught that sanskrit is superior to all languages. Deep down I still want to believe that. But that does not mean that other languages cannot stand in comparison. Today I fall in love with a new language very easily. Yet, as of now, it is restricted to Asian languages.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

I so want to write this

SO - such a small word yet it conveys a lot especially to the kids today. Words like quite, very, extremely and really are replaced by the single most powerful word ' SO '.

Sometime in 1996-97 I went to Calcutta to attend my friend's wedding. I was staying at my uncle's place who is a stickler for correct English among other things. He still types out emails like letters
Dear so-'n-so... Comma.... Next line... Maybe an indent... No unnecessary abbreviations... Proper capitalization... 2-3 paras ending with yours affly sorry affectionately... Anyway, my first lesson on 'SO' was from him. He asked how the wedding was. And I said with great enthusiasm, "it was so beautiful". He added, "that??". I said "huh!" He explained, "it was so beautiful that... . The word 'so' expects a part that starts with 'that'". Oh! And he was actually waiting for me to answer. I changed and said that it was very beautiful :-)

It was so awful!
It was so unfair!
Mom, you are so bad!

Now how do I tell these kids??

English is changing adapting and growing as a language. Googling is an acceptable word. Vedanta is accepted by Microsoft Word which brings up red squiggly marks for colour, authorise or metre. So I guess the use of 'so cool' only in informal talk would graduate to formal writing too.

There is actually a paper on this and a lot of noise on the Internet.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Five years gone in a blink of an eye!


I still belong to the old school localites who prefer to call the present Chennai - "Madras" and derive great pleasure in letting the letters roll off my tongue, tilting my head a little with pride and of course showing off a bit :-)

My short stint of 5 years is not much when compared to my earlier 25 years before marriage. Yet, this was the most enjoyable time I had spent in Madras. Is it the town? Is it the people? Is it the music? Maybe a mix of everything... This was there before too! But now, the only difference is my husband.. He made my stay here sweeter even he was not around most of the time. Now that sounds pretty cheesy ;-)

Date: 2nd October 2013
I have had some time now to review and compare Madras with San Jose. As my son keeps asking me, "you said we are going to US! This feels like Madras, just better." I did not know it then but now I feel it was like being under a microscope always, not that anybody cared about what I did. I love it here although deep down I still hold on to the mythical thread of Madras...

There is a magic to the city that cannot be explained by words...
मायामयी मद्रपुरी संमोहयति माम्
(The magical madras attracts me)

Sunday, July 17, 2011


What is Bhakti? It can be generally translated as devotion and Webster gives 'religious fervour' as its meaning. Does this mean that atheists cannot have devotion? How can explain this to different people from different walks of life? Most of all, how can we explain this to children who are influenced by what their parents think?

Theists - It is very easy to reach out to theists and say: devotion or bhakti is that belief that you have in God which directs certain actions (puja, prayers etc) in your everyday living.

Atheists - One has to leave out God equation and explain devotion in terms of concentration on activities close to one's heart.

Children - Now this is the tricky part. Children are always forever trying to assess what to take forward to their adult years. Some children don't want to believe in God because their parents don't believe and their acceptance is of utmost importance. Some children implicitly believe what their parents say. Yet others are skeptical and more inclined to go by what their teacher says.

I think bhakti should mean devotion to anything and everything. The passion with which we do our day to day work is bhakti. Cooking with bhakti gives a wonderful flavour to the food. Reading with bhakti gives a better understanding. Working with bhakti improves productivity. So why should bhakti or devotion have to be explained in religious terms?